“The three most important ways to lead people are: by example…by example…by example.” - Albert Schweitzer
Fundraising doesn’t happen in a vacuum. If you want to move your organization toward a culture of fundraising lead by example – educate and advocate on behalf of your organization; make a personal gift and volunteer to assist in areas for which you are not responsible.
As a consultant, I often find myself repeating to potential clients, “If you want to hire me to fundraise for you, I’m not that kind of consultant. Effective fundraising is the product of a cohesive organization with strong and viable programs where all members are engaged in fundraising. What I can do is help you strengthen your fundraising capability and success.”
The strongest fundraising programs are often found within organizations that embrace a culture of philanthropy. Merriam Webster defines philanthropy as “goodwill to fellow members of the human race; especially: active effort to promote human welfare.” And, “an act or gift done or made for humanitarian purposes.”
Creating a culture of philanthropy does not happen overnight – particularly in organizations that have been without such a culture – and requires the buy-in of everyone, including grounds keeping and housekeeping staff to administrators to volunteers helping run a program or answering phones to the board chair and everyone in between. Turning the corner and establishing a culture of philanthropy can be done with time, patience and buy-in from board, staff and volunteer leadership.
Here are some strategies that you can start using today:
Include all staff in fundraising activities and treat them well. I organized a grand opening event and invited the program staff to attend with the one stipulation that they sit among donors and enjoy dinner. Unbeknownst to me, I was breaking a long-standing tradition of not inviting staff or inviting them with the understanding they would take tickets, help set up or tear down or some other chore. I held my ground and, in the short term, was the beneficiary of a grateful program staff and donors who were regaled with interesting stories. In the long term, the program folks understood the importance of being ambassadors for the organization and became my link to prospective donors.
Ask program staff their goals and aspirations. Encourage them to share program stories including struggles and successes. This will help build trust and provide a link between program and fundraising. As a development officer, I shared my annual goals with program staff and asked them to share theirs with me.
Include fundraising as part of the recruitment and orientation of board members, volunteers and staff so they understand and view it as “part of the whole” and as well as their role in encouraging a philanthropic culture.
When recruiting board members, ask them where they think they best fit in the philanthropic process. It may be by acting as an ambassador for programs; hosting a small gathering of friends to learn more about your organization, and of course making a personal gift.
And, most importantly: Lead by example…lead by example...lead by example.
Learn more about creating a culture of philanthropy at Moving Your Organization from Fundraising to Philanthropy on September 14.
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